Hurricane Katrina Impact on Water Quality in the East Pearl River, Mississippi

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Marine Science


Hurricanes and other intense storms have previously been reported to cause short-term changes in surface water quality. We examined the water quality of the East Pearl River in southern Mississippi both before and after Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the watershed in 2005. Our post-storm sampling began two months after the hurricane, and thus we missed any immediate short-term consequences. However, sampling over the following two years allowed us to examine whether damage to the watershed resulted in significant longer-term effects on water quality. Interpretation of the time series data is complicated by the natural seasonal and climatic variability of the system. Thus, we utilized chemical property-property plots as well as semi-empirical relationships to compare pre- and post-storm water quality. Our analysis suggests that hurricane-induced vegetative destruction within this river basin has not substantially changed the concentrations of DOC, POC, SPM, pH, or dissolved Fe. However, ligninphenol analysis of colloidal organic matter did show some significant changes in carbon-normalized concentration as well as in some degradation and source parameters. Nonetheless, even these changes were small and likely temporary. This lack of change may be partly due to the slow degradation of woody materials that occurs only over a period of a few years, even in the sub-tropical climate of this region. Also, transport of DOC material from the land, through the soils, and into the river is not always instantaneous because DOC may stay in soils for a long time. Our work can be examined in the context of other research focused on hurricane effects on different time scales. For instance, shorter term hurricane influences, such as immediate flooding, can cause concurrent, short-lived water quality changes. Likewise, if increased hurricane activity (as might result from climate change) results in permanent landscape or ecosystem changes, then significant long-term water quality changes might be expected. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Hydrology



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